More Prisoner Abuse Testimony to Come

By Leon Worden
Signal City Editor

Thursday, July 22, 2004

*MEDIA—MANDATORY CREDIT: The Signal newspaper of Santa Clarita, Calif.

Sgt. Javal Davis
Sgt. Javal "Sean" Davis
slew of Army generals will testify behind closed doors next week about the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal.
    Generals throughout the chain of command in Iraq last fall — from Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, who commanded the military police guards, to Gen. John Abizaid, commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East — will give their sworn testimony to Paul Bergrin, defense attorney for one of the seven MPs charged with abusing prisoners.
    Bergrin's client, Sgt. Javal "Sean" Davis, 26, of New Jersey, has denied that he committed any crime. Rather, according to court papers, "he was merely following the orders of high-level government officials, members of the military and other civilian federal contractors to obtain intelligence information."
    One of the "civilian federal contractors" Bergrin wants to question is John B. Israel, a 48-year-old Canyon Country man who worked as a prison translator during the period of abuse. An Army report identifies Israel as one of four military intelligence officers and contractors who were "directly or indirectly responsible" for the abuse.
    One of those four — Lt. Col. Steve Jordan, the No. 2 military intelligence officer at the prison at the time — has decided to assert the military version of the 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination, Bergrin said.
    On June 21 the judge in Davis' court-martial proceedings, Col. James L. Pohl, cleared the way for Bergrin to question generals in the chain of command. But he found insufficient cause to allow Bergrin to question Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other high-ranking Pentagon officials in Washington.
    Bergrin believes he now has sufficient cause. He filed a motion Friday asking Pohl to reconsider on the basis of statements Karpinski made a week later to The Signal.
    Specifically, Bergrin's motion seeks to compel testimony from Rumsfeld and from Stephen Cambone, the undersecretary for intelligence.
    The motion quotes Karpinski telling The Signal on June 29, "I don't know if it stops at Cambone, but I believe that he was orchestrating it, he was directing."
    "Karpinski stated (to The Signal) that she has seen and reviewed a defense department memo showing ... Rumsfeld approved particular interrogation techniques at Abu Ghraib," the motion states.
    The day after Pohl made his June 21 ruling, the Pentagon released documents showing Rumsfeld had approved stripping, sensory deprivation and other strenuous interrogation practices for use on al-Qaida and Taliban detainees at Guantanamo Bay in late 2002 and early 2003.
    "If Rumsfeld approved the aggressive interrogation techniques (in) derivation to the third Geneva convention," Bergin's motion states, "then Sgt. Davis court not be held culpable for a violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice since he was acting on the approval of a superior government official."
    Bergrin's motion acknowledges that Rumsfeld rescinded the most aggressive interrogation techniques at Guantanamo Bay in early 2003 but asserts "that this recission was never funneled to the interviewers at Abu Ghraib."
    Bergrin said he will take testimony from several generals next Tuesday and Wednesday in Washington, with more interviews to follow next month.
    He said Pohl could decide during a scheduled Aug. 21 hearing in Baghdad if Bergrin will be authorized to question Rumsfeld and Cambone.
    Karpinski told The Signal last week that she believes the accused soldiers should be "given the best opportunities to gather all necessary information and testimony."